New York Times bestseller and radio personality Eric Metaxas discusses the crossroads of culture and faith as we ask the question, “What does it mean to be a Christian in the 21st century?” — peppered with Eric’s infamous wit and no-nonsense grit. Filmed on-location at Gaylord’s Opryland Resort in Nashville. Don’t miss a single episode of Dinner Conversations — subscribe below!
TRANSCRIPT FROM THE SHOW
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Mark: Today’s guest is Eric Metaxas. Now Eric is an author, a scholar. His book on Martin Luther, incredible. I love it. And I’ve read his book on Bonhoeffer, and Bill Gaither is his biggest fan. I’m telling you, I’ve never seen Bill Gaither be a fan of someone, but he loves Eric Metaxas, and come to find out, Eric is funny.
Andrew: Yeah, he’s super funny. He seems like this intellectual, heady type. He’s a New Yorker, he’s got cool glasses, he always wears suits, and he writes about these amazing people in history, especially in our Christian, spiritual history, but he is super funny. And he talks about in this first segment about a common culture where at one point in time as Americans we had more shared ideals and so conversation was a little bit easier because we came to the table already with some common experiences, and that has changed a lot more recently. So we’re gonna talk with him some. We’re at a special conference.
Mark: National Religious Broadcasters Conference.
Andrew: Yup, at Opryland Hotel, here in Nashville, a new location and a fun conversation with our friend Eric Metaxas.
Mark: And there’s one seat left at the table, and it’s yours. Let’s join the conversation.
Eric: And who are you guys again?
Mark: I’m Mark Lowry.
Eric: You’re Mark.
Andrew: And I’m Andrew Greer.
Eric: You’re Andrew. And you’re hosting this show?
Mark: That’s right.
Eric: And have we started rolling? Are we on?
Andrew We’re rolling.
Eric: We’re rolling?
Mark: So you’re the world’s greatest authority.
Eric: You know what, Professor Irwin Corey, the famous Professor Irwin Corey whom I had the privilege of meeting, he always billed himself as the world’s greatest authority, but he passed away about a year ago and I thought the mantle, I prayed for a double portion. I am the world’s greatest authority now, only because he’s no longer with us, so yeah, I’m the world’s greatest authority, generally speaking, generally speaking.
Mark: I don’t know if you know who Bill Gaither is.
Eric: Um, I think I do.
Mark: You mentioned his name the other day on the show.
Eric: You guys think I’m some idiot?
Mark: Well, I don’t know. You’re from New York.
Eric: Oh snap. That hurt. Is this microphone on?
Mark: Now you are Bill Gaither’s hero. And I don’t say that lightly. Let me explain.
Eric: Now I’m real confused.
Mark: Let me tell you. He reads all your books.
Eric: Bill Gaither reads my books, the 81-year-old Bill Gaither?
Mark: Yes, he reads everything that he can get his hands on. He called me the other day and said, “I just read a great book on Martin Luther.” And I said, “Who wrote it?” “Eric Metaxas.” “Oh, that’s Bonhoeffer.” ‘Cause we both have read that. And I said, “I’m gonna interview him next week.” He said, “Can I come?” And he was gonna fly down.
Andrew: But he can’t make it.
Mark: Now you mentioned him on your show the other day–
Eric: But I always mention him as a punchline.
Mark: What is the joke?
Eric: I’m not trying to be mean, but I’m saying that I’ll have like Supertramp will be playing, or something like that will be playing or Amy Winehouse or something else. I’ll say, “Ladies and gentlemen, as you know, that’s the great Bill Gaither.” And I just keep going. And today, we were playing some music up there, and I said, “Oh, that’s just fantastic. That’s the lovely Sandi Patty,” and some people in the audience were like, “That’s not Sandi Patty.” It’s like, “No, it was Elton John. That was a joke.”
Mark: When I read your books, I would never know that humor is a major part of who you are.
Eric: Not really.
Mark: Well, it seems to be.
Andrew: Satire humor?
Mark: And it also is kind of humor where if someone doesn’t get hurt, it’s not that funny.
Eric: Whoa. I’ve just been called mean.
Mark: No, but it is… I love that kind of humor ’cause it’s like pointing out the truth.
Eric: Well, a little bit. I think that some humor has an edge, but you know, here’s the thing. If your humor has an edge, you can still do it in a loving way. There’s mean humor. Not al edgy humor has to be mean. And I think that my love language, I joke around there’s a sixth love language, Don Rickles and I are the only ones who got it, but the sixth love language is to make fun of someone in public to express your love. I tease people to express my affection. That’s a fact, that’s a fact. And I’ve driven away four wives. That’s not true.
Mark: I’m starting to get it.
Eric: Yeah, but it’s kinda funny because it is true that that’s how I express… I think I got that from my mom. My mom was always joking around and teasing and stuff. It’s a way of expressing affection. It’s what I do. And the older you get, the more you feel free to speak your mind in a way. And I think there’s a joy in that, but again, you wanna do it in such a way that you’re not really… I mean, if you can serve God with sarcasm, then it’s good sarcasm. But if you’re not serving God with the sarcasm, you need to cut out the sarcasm.
Andrew: Is there ever a rub? A New Yorker in an evangelical world, like those don’t go together for me.
Eric: Well, theoretically they don’t, but I think that’s part of the problem. That’s kind of my raison d’être. My life’s calling is to be who God made me to be where I am, and I think that the Lord is the one that sent me to Yale and gave me the credentials that I could fool people into thinking I’m some kind of intellectual or whatever. It’s the glasses. And the point is that we, believers, have been underrepresented dramatically in the world of the secular elites, and that has caused a very bizarre skewing in the culture. In other words, if you watch TV or movies, whatever, you get the idea that anybody with a brain is sure that God didn’t exist and we evolved out of the primordial soup by random mutation and there’s no meaning to life. Now nobody actually drills down into what that means, but they just act like yeah, all the smart people know that, and all those jugheads who believe in Jesus and all that crazy stuff, we just don’t talk about them. And the fact of the matter is that the greatest people I’ve ever known intellectually, emotionally in terms of humor have been people who have a full-throated Christian faith, so I thought how come the world doesn’t portray that so part of what I wanna do with my life is to tell people, “Hey, there are a lot of extraordinary human beings that you would admire on every level who believe Jesus rose from the dead, was born of a virgin, did these miracles, walked on water, and they’re bright people who understand that you know, maybe this sounds odd, but it actually happened.” I mean, that’s part of my who I am.
“My life’s calling is to be who God made me to be where I am.” – Eric Metaxas
Mark: Let me ask you. I’m sorry, I’m spilling me water.
Eric: Is this prop food?
Andrew: No, you can eat it.
Eric: Oh, like I’m gonna eat it on camera, Oh sure, yeah.
Andrew: That’s all we do, that’s right.
Mark: Now, do you think the divide I’m seeing in Christians even over politics… When I was growing up my grandmother, who was a Republican, took my grandfather, who was a Democrat, to the voting booth. They’d vote each other out and then come home. What has changed? Why can’t we have a civil discussion any more? I used to get Jerry Falwell’s Christmas card and Tony Campolo’s Christmas card. I’d set ’em side by side.
Eric: Well, now hold on because Tony Campolo, if he’s your representative of the hard left, there’s your answer. Tony Campolo, you might disagree with him, but you don’t think of him as a screeching ninny. You think of him as somebody who has some points to be made.
Mark: And he’s in love with Jesus.
Eric: And who actually loves Jesus. But to be fair, Tony Campolo did not take positions that I would say, “That’s insane, that’s unbiblical.” I mean, maybe more recently he’s taken some that I would quibble with, but you cannot compare him to some of the voices that are out there today.
Andrew: So you see a difference in the current climate?
Eric: I see several differences. I mean, I see several differences. I think that there was, first of all, we had a common culture. We had a culture where we had more in common than we do now, and what we had in common enabled us to have our differences with civility. Something has happened. It’s been accelerated, you could say by the internet, that has made that less possible. I wrote a book called If You Can Keep It, which is all about America, and in it I tried to stress what does it mean to be an American for all Americans. If we can all focus on that, it really will change the things that we differ about.
Andrew: Can we do that? I mean, that kind of unity?
Eric: Well look, I don’t think… There are always gonna be insane, angry people.
Mark: On both sides.
Eric: On both sides, and I’m sitting with two of ‘em. Now here’s the issue, here’s the issue. Despite you guys, there are people out there that I think they’re just trying to raise their kids, and they’re trying to have… They don’t wanna have arguments all the time. They want to understand the basics. And so what we have done, I really do think that in the 60s a cultural narrative took hold that was fundamentally anti-American, anti-God, anti-family. It’s just a fact. Now those folks all had good points, and that’s why those narratives came into being, right? If your father’s abusive, you might end up hating men. You might end up not thinking marriage is a good idea. Now all these things come out of a good place, but when that narrative takes hold, it’s an entirely negative narrative, takes hold and you start suppressing the other side of the story that family could be the biggest blessing on planet Earth, or that some men are the greatest, most self-sacrificial human beings who ever walked the planet, and they died for their wives and their children and strangers, and let’s celebrate those people. Once you buy into a narrative that says, “No, we don’t wanna talk about that. We just wanna talk about how men are bad, and masculinity is by definition toxic and harmful,” whatever. Once that narrative takes hold, you can’t have a substantive conversation because you’re only representing one side, and happened in the culture because really of the sexual revolution where that narrative took hold. I argue it’s because of the rise of mass media. In other words, before mass media information was processed more locally, but once you have a mass media, whatever that mass media thinks is gonna be magnified with megaphones and on and on and on, and it just so happens that those cultural elites bought into that worldview more than not and so they live in a bubble. But then that bubble is presented every day via TV or movies or the culture so that you really don’t have an ability to compete with that, and so I think that narrative took over. And to say that I’m proud to be an American, suddenly for a lot of segments of culture became a dirty word. We don’t say that because America did this and did this and this. Well, of course every reality is a little complicated, but when you swallow it to the point where you say, “Well, I can’t say I’m proud to be an American,” now you got a problem because if you understand the sins of other countries, you’re getting silly. You’re getting simplistic. But I think we’re living in a culture that’s grabbed onto these narratives, and I just wanna rant for 40 more minutes. Let me rant.
Mark: I would love it.
Andrew: So has that eliminated our ability to think critically? Has mass media just eliminated our…?
Eric: It hasn’t eliminated it, but it’s gone a long way toward harming it. I mean, one of the most depressing things for me is I’ll post something on Facebook or on Twitter, and the responses that must be categorized as idiotic. Why? Not because I disagree with them, but because they have clearly not understood what I even said. Now some of them are unable to understand what I said. Others, who are far worse, didn’t even try. They just saw an opportunity to flick back–
Andrew: With their own biases.
Eric: And at that moment, you realize this is useless. In other words, I don’t think you need to have a substantive conversation on Twitter, but it can be thoughtful. You can post a thoughtful article. People can think about it. But what a lot of people do is they use it as a place to vent, and that’s not biblical. You’re not blessing people if you just sit in there, you’re angry and you thought, well, I can kick a few dogs today. Let me get on Twitter, and I can just bang, bang, bang-bang-bang. So you really do have an opportunity to behave that way that it simply didn’t exist. You literally had to kick a literal dog if you just wanted to take out your feelings, but today, you can do it on social media all day long.
Andrew: What I love about your authorship, what I love about usually what you have to say is the critical thinking among evangelicals, among Christianity, that this true faith is not a leap into the dark, it’s always a leap into the light. This idea that blind faith is not a thing. Even though like I grew up in somewhat of an environment though my parents filtered it differently for me, it was this kind of don’t ask questions.
Eric: Well see, that’s the point, is it cuts both ways. Blind faith, I get the idea of blind faith, but at the same time, we wanna believe in what’s true. If Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, if he was not the Messiah, if he’s the second person of the Trinity, we don’t wanna waste our lives believing in him. We want it to be true. Now, it’s not about apologetics and proving that it’s true, but at the same time, let’s not pretend that it’s not true. Let’s not pretend that we can all believe whatever we want. I choose to believe Jesus died on a cross for my sins. Either he did or didn’t. And that’s an aspect that, because of the enlightenment, we’ve divided into there’s rationality and then there’s spirituality. And you realize, look, you can talk about quantum physics as though it’s all theory, but the point is that people say, “Well, no, this is real.” Just ’cause I can’t see it, I don’t say, “Whatever.” I’m still trying to figure it out. And I think when it come to spirituality and faith, we still ought to use our minds to try to understand it. And again, to get back to this narrative since the 60s, I think we’ve been living in a culture that says, “Faith is sort of for crazy people, so we’re gonna put it over there, and we’re gonna let like African-Americans and other exotic people, they can have their faith because they need it, but those of us in the newsroom and stuff, we’re gonna be hyper-rational. We’re not gonna get sucked into that crazy stuff, so we’re gonna let some groups have that. We’re not gonna criticize them, but we’ve already decided that’s just crazy talk.” And my etiquette is it’s not crazy talk. The greatest people in the planet have believed this stuff, and it’s important for us to understand that it’s either true or it’s not. Jesus either rose from the dead bodily or he didn’t. Now, nobody can force you to believe it, but the idea that who’s to say. Well, that’s like saying, “Well, who’s to say if Columbus sailed here in 1492 or 1392? Who’s to say?” We oughta be dealing with reality. And I think the church has fallen into this trap of we’re gonna have our little religious corner over here, and all that other stuff for the big boys, politics and policy and science, that’s over here. And you think, God is supposed to be in everything, you know?
“I think the church has fallen into this trap of we’re gonna have our little religious corner over here, and all that other stuff for the big boys, politics and policy and science, that’s over here.” – Eric Metaxas
Andrew: And you can speak to that, right, ’cause your background, would you say that comes from agnosticism, like before you had your conversion experience?
Eric: I don’t know. I don’t really know. Here’s what I would say, I think that because I went to Yale University, I was surrounded by people who were not like the people I grew up with. I mean, I grew up in a working class home. And so suddenly you’re around all these smart people who come from wealthy families and stuff, and they all act as though this Christian stuff or whatever or conservative politics, it’s all nutcases. So you kinda drink that Kool-Aid, and then when I came to faith supernaturally, the Lord spoke to me in a dream. It was like this mind-blowing experience. Suddenly I thought, “Well, now I gotta deal with all those friends of mine that are gonna think I’m crazy. I know I’m not crazy, but I’m gonna have to have some vocabulary to be able to talk to them in case they’re interested. A lot of ’em won’t be, but let me see.” So I started reading books and things, and the more I read, the more I was kind of scandalized, and I think I’m perpetually scandalized by this that the reality that I encountered in all these amazing books and minds and people doesn’t exist in American reality. It’s as if those names don’t exist. Like you’ll never hear about all the people that I have read about and stuff. It’s like a separate reality. We’re gonna live in our little secular culture, and we’re gonna act like that religion stuff, it’s for those people that they need a crutch. Maybe they’ve been oppressed, or they come from a poor home or whatever it is. They can have that, but we know it’s just crazy. More and more and more, I read more and more books, and I thought, not only is this not crazy, but this is dramatically true. It explains everything. I mean, even science, when I wrote my book on miracles, when I was doing all the reading about the fine tuned universe, and Christopher Hitchens said that he was asked, “What is the most compelling argument on the other side, on the God side?” He said, “Without question, the fine tuned universe,” blah-bl-bl-blah. He was like, “That’s the one that kind of scares us, all of us, me and my colleagues on the atheist side.” Well, I wrote a piece in the Wall Street journal on this subject, on the fine tuned universe, people came out of the woodwork, basically saying it’s stupid, it was disproved a million years ago, and I thought look, first of all, A, that’s not true, B, Christopher Hitchens says it’s not true. Christopher Hitchens says that even though he’s maybe not buying it, it’s a sophisticated, troubling argument. But I’m saying again, we kind of live in a culture where when do you ever get that argument? It’s just that you’re always getting this idea that oh, there’s zillions of planets, and there’s life evolving out of puddles everywhere and we’re just… That’s just unscientific.
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Mark: Well, come to find out Eric Metaxas is also a born-again believer. I mean, hardcore. And he’s gonna give you his testimony. Now I always love finding out how people find their way to God. You know, I believe there’s many ways to Jesus, but there’s only one way to God. And that is Jesus. But his route to Jesus was quite interesting.
Andrew: A unique experience. You know, I think we’re hearing more and more, just as we hear more and more about the world and people in different parts of the world and how they are experiencing Jesus, the Christ, and a lot of ’em are experiencing it through dreams, and Eric has a really incredible story. What’s amazing to me is we hear all these stories from around the world about people having some, what I would consider, seemingly miraculous experiences, as far as their first introduction to God through Jesus. Maybe people who have an Islamic background and territories there, having dreams about Jesus and grace and love that they’ve never experienced before. But Eric’s an American. He was here in our culture. He went to church growing up, and yet still had this supernatural experience that actually brought him to faith and God through Jesus.
Andrew: Tell us your personal story because I think like I read a book, maybe five, six years ago, Brother Andrew, who was this Catholic priest who works with a lot in Islamic countries and territories in the 50s and the 60s and what they called Muslim background believers, MBBs, and it was dreams, it was visions, that were bringing them to literally a contrast of what they never experienced before. I mean, that kind of personal story speaks.
Mark: So wasn’t it a person who told you about Jesus?
Eric: Well no, it was. It’s a little complicated. It’s not that complicated. Basically, I had had some faith, and then by the time I graduated Yale, more and more I just thought that’s just for crazy, right-wing people and I live in a world of cultural sophisticates and we don’t know what’s true. And guess what, we know that you can’t know what’s true. We know that if you’re really smart, you know that nobody can have the answers to these unanswerable questions, so you’re adrift. I was not pleased to be adrift. I was not happy. I wasn’t saying, “I’m psyched. I can sin. Let’s have fun.” I was just confused. And so I wasn’t like a militant atheist, I wasn’t happy about it, but I just didn’t see that the Christians could be right or anybody could be right so I was drifting along. I fell on really hard times, which is to say I moved back in with my parents, and that was tough ’cause my parents are working-class European immigrants. They don’t have any patience for like, oh, we work menial jobs to send you to Yale and now you got problems? Like you should be buying us a house. So I moved back in with them. I was about 24, and it was really a tough time for me. And I got the worst job you could get. What job can you get with an English degree from Yale? None. I got a job as a proofreader at Union Carbide Corporation in Danbury, Connecticut, hell on Earth for me. Just miserable. And in that time, in that miserable, miserable, miserable time, I met a man, graphic designer, who started sharing his faith with me, and he was relentless, and I was relentlessly like, “Don’t get too close. I’m not interested.” But we kept talking, and I was in enough pain that I’m willing to listen. Well, that went on for like 10 or 11 months of cat and mouse where I’m pretending to believe it, but I haven’t had an experience. But every once in a while I’m like, “Lord, if you’re there, give me a sign.” I don’t even believe I’m talking to God. I’m just like, “If you’re there, give me a sign. I hope you’re there, but I don’t think you’re there, but if you are there, give me a sign.” Well, one day right around my 25th birthday, I had a dream and in the dream, it’s a long story. If you go to my website, it’s just my name, ericmetaxas.com, there’s an I Am Second video.
Mark: Oh, I saw that. It’s fantastic.
Eric: And in my Miracles book, I tell the story as well, but for our purposes here, I’ll just say that in the dream Jesus made it super clear he’s real, he knows me better than I know myself. I mean, he blew my mind. And when it was over, I was like, that’s it, game over. I know Jesus is Lord. The Bible is true.
Mark: Like a Damascus.
Eric: It was. And from that day, I’m born again, I’m sold out.
Mark: Were your parents along for that ride?
Eric: My parents were not happy with this. They were not happy with the fanatical Eric Metaxas that they raised, no. Because look, imagine the arrogance of a 25-year-old son saying to his father who took him to Greek Orthodox Church every week, “I’ve become a Christian.” He’d be like, “You’ve become a Christian? What have we been? Buddhists, Muslims, atheists? Like we go to church every Sunday, remember?” So he was hurt and offended, and I was like, “Well, that’s a dead religion,” you know, as young men can be, arrogant and testosterone-filled, and so I basically was not able to really square the circle at that time. And so for many, many years I think it was upsetting to my dad. It was like I rejected him and his background, and it’s really not a good thing. And I think Christians, especially new Christians, need to be encouraged to shut up sometimes. You know, I think it was confusing for them and my whole family because I was, you know, even more fanatical than I am now in a sense, right, because it’s just the zeal of a converted, yeah.
Andrew: Fresh and new.
Eric: And so it took years, I think, of them watching my life to see no, I’m not crazy. No, God has made a better person of me. But it took a long time. And my dad in particular, he’s 90 now. He clearly gets it, and that’s the joy of my life that the father that I love, he understands Jesus is his friend, he prays. But let this be a lesson to people. It can take a long time, and if you think you’re gonna argue somebody into the kingdom, you’re a fool. Shut up, love ’em.
Mark: A baby’s never been argued out of the womb.
Eric: There you go.
Andrew: Okay, so the conversion thing, though. This I think is really relatable to a lot of people who are thinking that what conversion means is this moment in time, this one experience, there’s a flip, everything is reversed.
Eric: For some people, that’s true.
Andrew: But you said your conversion experience was not something of suddenly feeling guilty about everything and changing.
Eric: No, no, no. I’m not kidding, and this is important, right, that when I came to faith, I wasn’t like, oh, Jesus forgave me my sins or whatever. Absolutely not. That was not an issue for me. I wasn’t walking around with a load of guilt. Now intellectually I got that. Intellectually, I understood that, but that’s not what moved me. Now a lot of people say, “Well then, that’s not a thorough conversion.” It is what it is. I mean, I had been a believer before I had that conversion. Maybe the Lord used this to close the deal and to make it clear who he is because my heart was inclined to him, but I didn’t understand it. I mean, who knows? All I know is it’s really bad when you create a paradigm and you insist that people buy into that paradigm because that way if you’ve always believed, you think like, “Well, I guess I gotta have a period of backsliding so I can come to faith, otherwise it’s not authentic.” For me, I really had a heart for God as a teenager, and I was not discipled and I just drifted, but even when I was at Yale, I went to the Christian group on campus for a semester. I don’t know what the heck I was thinking, but I went, and I was there, and I didn’t like it, and I just kinda drifted away. And then next thing you know, four, five years have passed and I’m lost. I’m sleeping with my girlfriend. I don’t know the meaning of life. I’m pretty sure you can’t know the meaning of life. That’s how far I drifted. And so the Lord brought me back. Now was I hell-bound the day before that dream? I hope not, but I certainly may have been. I don’t know. All I know is that after that dream I knew Jesus was Lord. I knew that I was a sinner that needed to have grace and love my enemies and on and on and on and on and that I’m under his judgment, that I need to care about what he thinks, not what other people think. You know, something happened to me overnight. It happened in a dream. I don’t know anybody else to whom that kind of thing happened in a dream. Maybe that proves I’m a Muslim secretly. I don’t know.
Andrew: Okay, I love quotes in general, and you’re very quotable, which I’m very happy about. Okay, “It was as though I was a prince exiled from another kingdom, and whenever I saw hints of that other kingdom, I hoped to find the way back.”
Eric: I wrote that?
Andrew: You did.
Andrew: In Miracles.
Eric: Wow. Hey, that’s not bad.
Andrew: It’s beautiful, unless you were quoting someone else, and I quoted it as you.
Eric: No, no-no-no-no.
Andrew: It’s an inborn longing is what I hear. I remember asking my dad as a 5-year-old, being like, “I feel foreign. I feel away from something.” And he was like, “You are.” You know, so this inborn longing, like I don’t think we always like to… I think there’s importance in being here now because we can bide our time, and I think this is already bringing God’s kingdom as it is.
Eric: And that’s quite right. The idea that when we go to heaven, God’s kingdom starts. No, Jesus said, “It starts the minute you receive me. It starts here, and you are my ambassadors, and the kingdom expands from here,” which is why we need to serve the poor and the hungry and the downtrodden. We’re meant to start here, but we don’t get all the way there until he returns or we get to heaven. But yeah, this has been a big problem of evangelicalism, right, is that we make it really cerebral and really other-worldly, and it’s all about salvation. And what that does is it leaves all of God’s work to like the government or to leftist humanists who just say, “Well, we’re doing this. We don’t know why, but we’re just doing this.” We’re supposed to know why, we’re supposed to–
Andrew: We have the motivation.
Eric: We’re supposed to have the motivation, but I think that that’s what happened in the church is that there’s this divide. Something happened, let’s say in the 1920s right around the Scopes trial, is this cultural divide where some people said, “Well, we’re just gonna do the good stuff,” and other people said, “We’re just gonna believe the important stuff,” and they sort of drifted away from each other. That’s a bummer because we are meant to be doing God’s work here, which is one of the reasons ironically that I think Christian’s need to be political. It doesn’t mean only political, but the point is that we need to be involved in the things of this world ’cause God is in this world ’cause human beings are suffering in this world. I mean, when I told people that I thought they should vote for Trump, it didn’t mean, “Hey, I think Trump’s awesome.” It meant that I made a calculation that if you care about that 8-year-old black kid in the project, you need to think in your head which president is gonna help him more. Now if you think there’s an easy answer to that, there’s no easy answer, but don’t pretend your faith can let you say, “I’m gonna sit this one out.” I think this world is dirty. We need to roll up our sleeves, It’s kind of like Bonhoeffer. He would’ve preferred not to get involved in the plot to kill Hitler, but he said, “I don’t think God’s given me that option. I think that God’s gonna judge me, did I try to figure it out. And I tried, and this was my solution. If I’m wrong, I cast myself on the mercy of God and say, ‘Lord, please forgive me. I’ve led others astray, forgive me.’” But we’ve gotta try. Wilberforce was told by everyone, “Keep your faith private. Slavery has always been with us. It’s a reality,” and he said, “No, I think God is calling me to get involved. Now my salvation is not in the slave issue, but my faith leads me to care about the suffering people,” and so I really think that that’s an important part of real faith is living out our faith in every aspect to the best that we can.
“We need to be involved in the things of this world ’cause God is in this world ’cause human beings are suffering in this world.” – Eric Metaxas
Mark: But it’s almost become like, if you’re not a Republican, you’re not a Christian.
Eric: Well, isn’t that true? What do you mean?
Mark: No, seriously. I mean, do you believe if Christ was here he would’ve been a Republican?
Eric: If Christ were here, I am sure he would’ve been a Whig.
Mark: A who?
Eric: A Whig.
Mark: Oh really?
Eric: No. I mean, I think you can’t… Christ be a Republican… I mean, there’s no way he would be a Republican or Democrat.
Mark: These are two different kingdoms.
Andrew: Two paradigms?
Eric: But let me say this. Let me say this. We all have to make political calculations, but let’s face it, both parties are darn flawed. Like there’s no doubt about it. So anybody who says the Republican party is the solution or Trump is the solution, never, never! Then you’re making an idol of politics. But I still do think we have to work it out.
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Mark: All right, let me ask you this. You start to say in the book, and for our viewers I think this will be interesting, is you said you were gonna change some misconceptions about Luther. Give me some of those.
Eric: Well, there are a lot. And it’s kind of funny, it’s almost like a pass your first sermon. I found seven, right? And some of them are big, some of them are not. A lot of people believe, ‘cause you see things in retrospect, they believe that he was this reformer who was just hopped up to kill the pope from day one. Absolutely not true. He was a humble son of the church who loved his church, and when he nailed the 95 Theses to the door of the castle church, if he did, we think he did, whatever, but whenever that happened, he was trying to get a civil, think of the irony, trying to get a civil conversation going on the issue of indulgences, which he knew most people would agree like, yeah, there’s problems here. But instead, and it’s kinda like the climate we’re in today, instead it’s as if he tweeted something out and everybody went nuts, and we never got back to the actual conversation. He didn’t get to say, “Oh, by the way, I made a mistake on that word.” It just went insane, and so basically, you have a situation where people think of him as a troublemaker. Now he did become a troublemaker, but that was really in response to what happened. In other words, he felt that he was so mistreated that he thought, “Am I dealing with antichrists? I mean, if I’m dealing with the church, they should be thanking me for trying to bring this stuff up.” I mean, I’m speaking after the manner of men. It’s much more complicated, but it is interesting that things quickly spun out of control. But when he nailed the 95 Theses to the door, he really was not looking to start trouble. People act like this was the moment, like he’s with the hammer, he’s there, and it’s like nothing of the kind. In fact, it was like a bulletin board, and if you did it with Scotch tape, it had all the effect of a guy going down to the laundry room to the bulletin board and putting up with Scotch tape, “We’re gonna have a theological debate,” and he put it up there. It had all the drama of that, but it’s portrayed in retrospect like this was the moment when he stood. Even the Diet of Worms, as brave as his stand was four years later, he was not there shaking his fist at anybody. He was hoping desperately that God could bring about peace. And so I think you’re being told you have five minutes.
Andrew: Yes, I see.
Eric: Something like that. It was a metaphor. It was a hand, but I read it as a metaphor. So that’s one, and then we don’t even know, we’re pretty sure he didn’t nail the theses up on the date we say, number one. We don’t even know that he did nail the theses up. He might’ve used paste or he might’ve given ‘em to the custodian, no joke, to post ‘em. We see that in retrospect. One of my favorite ones is the theory that the nine nuns that escaped from the Nimschen convent you hear over and over and over, every book on Luther says that they escaped in herring barrels, barrels that held herring, that they hid in them. I said, “Oh, that’s so cool. I’m gonna put that in my book,” so I did all this research and I found not only do we not know whether it happened, we actually do know that it didn’t happen. Totally didn’t happen, but there’s all kinds of stuff like that. I mean, we don’t have time here, but there’s some significant things and some little things. It’s important to know what’s true. And I say that in my own life today about whether we’re arguing politics or whatever. Argue about what you know is true. Don’t argue from your emotion or what you wanna believe. Let’s try to get it right. And when you’re writing biography, history, try to get it right. And so anybody who accuses me of putting myself into the book, I’m like, listen, dudes, I’m trying harder than anybody not to do that. If you think I did, what can I tell ya, but if you can show me I will change it ’cause I think that history and facts and reason are really important. What can I tell you?
Mark: Well, I appreciate it ’cause you put the cookies on the bottom shelf, and I like that.
Eric: That is so funny ‘cause so many people said, “Like I need a dictionary reading your book, Eric,” and you make it sound like I wrote a book for everybody, which was my goal.
Mark: Well, you did ’cause I’m everybody. I am. I’m not the smartest.
Eric: Thank you. That’s been amply demonstrated in this conversation, honestly.
Mark: And I agree, that’s no joke.
Eric: I appreciate that. I love people pretend to be all humble. This is a smart guy.
Andrew: Take this. We only go a couple minutes, but secret vocabulary of the heart, when you say that, do you believe that God is literally trying to reach us in that most intimate place?
Eric: Yeah, of course, that’s the point. In other words, people kind of act like you’re the gospel and that, it’s like, no-no-no-no. We have a God that wants to translate the gospel, the good news that he loves you, in the most personal language imaginable. Imagine kissing your kid on the face, how much you love them! God says like, “No-no-no-no, it’s a theory. It’s a doctrine. Here it is. Have you heard it in English? Well then, good.” He wants to communicate it to us, so how will he communicate it to us? In a million ways. And since every child is different, God is the same, but he communicates differently to each one of us. To me, he communicated in a dream in a way that would’ve made no sense to anybody else.
Mark: And a New Yorker got a dream.
Eric: And a dadgum New Yorker.
Mark: And you’re not Pentecostal, right?
Eric: Actually, I pray in tongues and I believe in the move. I believe in all that crazy stuff. You think, well, a sophisticated Yale graduate surely wouldn’t believe in that stuff. I believe Jesus rose from the dead. I believe in tongues. I’m straight up Jesus freak on every level.
Mark: I am too.
Eric: Praise God. I really am. I am. I believe in healing, deliverance, all that crazy stuff, because it’s true.
Mark: I’ve enjoyed this.
Eric: Well, me too.
Mark: What an honor this is. I’m serious.
Eric: I’m so glad I didn’t take a bite, I would’ve missed something.
Mark: The kingdom of God and America or any other kingdom in this world, they’re two separate kingdoms. To live in the kingdom of God, you’ve gotta die. To get, you gotta give. To be first, you gotta be last. I heard a pastor say one time the kingdom of God is like backing up a trailer. Which ever way you think to go, do the opposite and you’re probably right. So it’s two separate kingdoms and I vote, but that’s all I’m gonna tell you about how I think politically ‘cause it’s none of your business and I think it clouds the waters. When you’re trying to tell ’em about Jesus, I think it clouds the waters.
Andrew: Right, if Jesus is the main point, which in my life he has been the main point, and it’s who I want to be, my focus, my focal point, so I feel like it’s just such an easy distraction to get into the game of whether it be politics or whether it be any hot topic in culture. These are important conversation. As you know, we love hard conversations here at Dinner Conversations, but the main focus of any conversation, the foundation of the reason we even sit at the same table and talk together, sometimes we disagree on certain things.
Mark: Oh yeah, gosh.
Andrew: But it’s Jesus. What I always love to say is he sets the table for communion. We just all get invited to it. And everyone is invited. So I love how Eric has expressed that through his story of spirituality.
Mark: Let everybody get next to Jesus, and he’ll fix what’s broken in all of us.
Andrew: So thank you so much to our new friend, Eric Metaxas. We have loved having him on this episode of Dinner Conversations.
Mark: And we love you joining us every episode. We’ll see you next time on Dinner Conversations. Well, we wanna thank Eric Metaxas for giving us his opinion today.
Andrew: That’s right. You can find his books in the Amazon affiliate link in the episode description below.
Mark: And if you wanna binge watch Dinner Conversations, you can do that right now.
Andrew: You really should.
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ChildFund is a community development organization that has been envisioning a world where every child is free to live at their fullest potent no matter where they are from — or what challenges they face — since 1938.
Partner with us and our good friends at ChildFund to change the world in the life of a child by considering sponsoring a child today. It takes so little to make a difference. A child is waiting. And remember, every one who sponsors a child is invited to a Dinner Conversations Friends & Family Weekend in Nashville, plus receives an autographed Season Two DVD, CD and a special item handmade for you by our communities in Guatemala.
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Watch Our Other Episodes:
S03, E01: Orphans No More featuring Lisa Harper
S03, E02: Perfectly Imperfect featuring Wynonna Judd
S03, E03: Surviving Miscarriage featuring Jason Crabb and Sonya Isaacs
S03, E04: Fear Factors featuring Patsy Clairmont
S03, E05: A New Normal featuring Jaci Velasquez and Nic Gonzales
S03, E06: Suicide: Hiding in Plain Sight featuring Mark Means and Wes Hampton
S03, E07: Personality by Number featuring Ian Morgan Cron and Lisa Whelchel